Situation critical. How the NHS could affect the path of Brexit

October 26th, 2016


That £350m “commitment” could be damaging

The debate in Britain about health spending is fundamentally dishonest.  The left constantly press for large increases in spending.  The government constantly boasts about ever-increasing spending at or above inflation levels.  Voices on the right frequently argue for scaling back the health services that the public sector provides.  None of them address what Britain needs.

Britain’s health needs are growing at a rate far faster than inflation, even if one uses measures of healthcare inflation.  Those needs are not growing in line with prices but demography.  40% of NHS spending is devoted to those aged 65 and over, though that group comprises only 18% of the population, with this spending concentrated in the older age bands.  70% of NHS spending in England is directed towards just 25% of the population – those with incurable long term conditions.  As the nation’s population inexorably gets older and as those with incurable long term conditions can be supported more effectively, costs will inevitably rise.

Make no mistake, it is good news that we are living longer and that those with health needs can be supported more effectively.  But that good news comes with a cost and one that rises as we age.  By 2039 the Office for National Statistics estimates that those aged 75 or over will increase from 8% of the population to over 13% of the population.  (Besides being the most needy of resources, the over-75s are also the most violent.)    Healthcare costs, if no changes are made to NHS coverage, will rise far in excess of inflation for the next generation.  Increasing funds for the NHS is like throwing cakes at a bear.

There is no easy solution.  To make the books balance, either taxes will need to rise steeply, other government spending will need to be reduced significantly or NHS services will need to be cut sharply.  Probably we will need to see a combination of all three.  There is a crunch coming and it cannot be deferred indefinitely.

That crunch may be coming very soon indeed.  75% of acute hospitals are in deficit – only 8% of NHS providers were in deficit in 2009/10.  The NHS has managed to keep the show on the road in the last few years by spending more than it receives.  That is not a sustainable model in the long term and may not be sustainable in the short term.  Ambulance response rates are worsening, waiting times after referral are deteriorating (cancer treatment waiting time targets have not been met since 2014) and A&E waiting time targets are now routinely being missed, with the latest quarter showing the most patients delayed in a decade.  Pressures are building up in the system.  The sense of crisis building is palpable.

The government will be hoping for another quiet winter in the health service, as are we all.  Given the state of hospital finances and current performance, there is no particular reason to expect that hope to be met.  The media reporting on a crisis in the NHS this winter looks considerably more likely than not.

The public aren’t expecting this at all.  They’ve just voted in a referendum where they were told that £350 million a week could be saved for the NHS.  Reasonably enough they are going to ask why this has not happened.  They are unlikely to be impressed to be told that the money is not going to be available, that actually the £350 million was earmarked for other things as well, that Brexit has yet to happen, that the Leave camp are not the government and that it wouldn’t make all that much difference anyway.  Pointing at the small print will just leave the public feeling duped and angry.

If the public think that they have been had, this is probably going to do nothing to assuage concerns about how Brexit is developing.  Theresa May has pencilled in March for triggering Article 50 (subject to whatever the courts might rule about this).  Nothing much looks likely to happen before then and the vacuum about what Brexit means seems likely to continue till then, with increasing alarm among the public about the absence of a disclosed plan.  If Leave’s flagship policy comes to be seen as a con in the public’s eyes, public confidence in the whole idea is likely to dissipate at high speed. 

So Leavers should be thinking right now what they’re going to be telling the public if the NHS does go through a rough patch this winter.  The NHS’s problems could rapidly become their own.

Alastair Meeks



The Richmond Park battle with Zac is an absolutely must win for the LDs

October 25th, 2016


If they can’t recover here then they are in trouble

To be frank I had been getting concerned about what we’d be doing on the site after the November 8th US election. PB is at its best when there are real elections taking place and there are real things to bet on. So I was absolutely delighted to get the news that we are to have a by-election in Richmond Park where Zac Goldsmith has quit because of the Heathrow decision.

At the moment we don’t know what his status will be and what the Tories will do. Will he stand as an anti LHR3 Independent or will be be adopted again as the official Conservative candidate by his local association?

My sense is that it will be the former with him getting tacit support from his local party who will not select a candidate.

This is all making the betting rather odd. William Hill are offering 10/1 on CON winning. What would happen to those bets if Zac is re-selected? Hard to say.

Judging by the betting pattern this afternoon the LDs have their tails up and believe that they can win. Ladbrokes opened with them as 6/4 second favourite. They are now 4/5 odds-on favourite.

Let there be in no doubt. The LDs have to win this seat if only to reinforce the narrative that 18 months on from the coalition they are on their way back. On the face of it this is well within the bounds of possibility. A swing only marginally larger than that saw last week in Withey would do it. They were also second place there last time so will find it easier to make the tactical argument.

Zac was hugely popular as seen in his GE2015 result. The shine, however, has gone off that to some extent following his London mayoral campaign which has been labelled as racist. He’s also a leaver in a REMAIN stronghold.

The party will throw everything at the battle which because of its location will get far more media attention than other by-elections.

Mike Smithson


UPDATED Heathrow expansion to go ahead: Zac Goldsmith resigns

October 25th, 2016


As had been widely predicted Theresa May’s government has decided to go ahead with the expansion of Heathrow. A third runway will be added to the two that have been in place there for 70 years. A short time ago Zac Goldsmith announced that he was quitting his Richmond Park seat.

The immediate political interest is what is the Richmond Park CON MP and 2016 Mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, going to do. He has long threatened to resign thus producing a by-election. He’s made it known that he wants to talk to his constituents first and will be announcing his intentions tonight.

    It was hard to see how in view of his past position he could do other than carry out his threat.

The immediate political interest is the by election in Richmond Park. Until 2010 large parts of his seat were in Lib Dem hands and after Witney the yellows must feel that they have a chance of winning. Zac might stand as an anti-LHR Independent in which case it is not clear what the Tories would do. It is hard to see them giving him a free ride.

The LDs require a swing a fraction more than they achieved in Witney last week to win. They start, though, in a better tactical position having been second at GE2015.

The by election will be about BREXIT as well as LHR3 and the seat recorded one of the biggest REMAIN totals anywhere in the UK on June 23rd.

I’d make the LDs the favourite.

Mike Smithson


Updated UKIP leader betting and some of the controversial Tweets

October 25th, 2016

What Raheem Kassam Tweeted about Nicola Sturgeon

And others..

Earlier version of this post appeared last night for a short period


The Telegraph does a sting on the Trump campaign and finds that it’ll accept illegal foreign donations

October 24th, 2016

This has replaced the previous thread posted a couple of minutes ago


After decades we should be getting the Heathrow expansion decision tomorrow

October 24th, 2016


Whatever the political fireworks will begin

It has been an awful long time coming but we are promised that the long awaited decision on the expansion of Heathrow will come tomorrow.

It’s reported that TMay and other ministers on the airport subcommittee will meet before cabinet. It is being speculated that we could get an announcement before the markets open because it is felt that this is so politically sensitive.

Theresa May herself will make a Commons statement at 12.30.

All the signs are that the plan chosen will be one of the Heathrow options.

No doubt one of the first people to respond will the Richmond Park CON MP, Zac Goldsmith, who has threatened to resign his seat and force a by-election if LH3 goes ahead.

Mike Smithson


Why you shouldn’t rely on the BREXIT experience as a pointer to a Trump victory

October 24th, 2016


The elections are not as comparable as they might appear

There’s an ongoing argument that’s being made every day that Donald Trump can take heart from the fact that the BREXIT polling, betting and forecasts were wrong.

Certainly there’s little doubt that in broad terms he appeals to the same demographic groups that backed LEAVE. He’s tapping into much of the anger that we saw in the referendum. In the betting we’ve also got what we experienced ahead of June 23rd – in terms of the amount of money being wagered the balance was to REMAIN while in terms of the overall number of bets the LEAVE side had it.

Most bookies are reporting the same with WH2016. They have had more Trump bets than Clinton ones but overall more money on the latter. That might, of course, be down to the tight odds-on price that the former Secretary of State has moved to. A Clinton bet doesn’t offer much value.

Also unlike the referendum only a very small proportion of bets placed in the UK are from those who’ll be able to vote on November 8th. The online bookmakers go to great lengths to stop bets from the US being placed.

The expectations from leading pundits was that REMAIN would win which is just the same with WH2016 and Hillary Clinton.

Where it falls down is that the polling pattern does not compare.
In the final three weeks leading up to June 23rd there were more polls with LEAVE leads than REMAIN ones. In the US race Trump has had very few leads of late with most national and swing state polls going the Clinton way.

Another factor is early voting. After June 23rd it was said that LEAVE had secured a big lead amongst postal voters which made up about a fifth of the total. In the Trump-Clinton fight what early voting indicators there are point to the Democrats at least equalling or doing better than four years ago.

This doesn’t mean that a Trump victory is out of the question just that the two elections are not as comparable as is being suggested.

Mike Smithson


This analysis might well disprove the theory of Shy Trumpers

October 23rd, 2016

If there are ‘Shy Trumpers’ you’d expect Donald Trump to have outperformed the polls during the primaries and caucuses.

One of the more interesting theories posited during this White House race on why Donald Trump will become President is that the polls are wrong because there are shy Trumpers not being picked up in the polls. With Donald Trump proving to be the most controversial Presidential candidate since George Wallace, you can understand why some of his voters might be shy and embarrassed to tell pollsters about their true intention to vote for Donald Trump.

Harry Enten of fivethirtyeight has analysed Trump’s actual performance in the primaries & caucuses versus his performances in the polls, and we can see there’s no evidence of shy Trumpers, if there were shy Trumpers you’d expect Donald Trump to over perform his polling. I know primary & caucus elections are different to Presidential elections but on current evidence the term ‘Shy Trumpers’ causes real epistemological problems.